This fall, WEM’s 2023 Artist-in-Residence Martha McDonald will stage a new live performance, The Wood is Singing in Color, based on her deep research into the museum’s collections and archives. Over the past eight months, McDonald has brought her singular interdisciplinary approach, which creatively responds to collections and histories, to our site. The Wood is Singing in Color marks the first time WEM’s Artist-in-Residence program has culminated in a live performance. The piece will be staged eight times over a series of two weekends in the 1956 Workshop designed by Esherick, Louis I. Kahn, and Anne Tyng.
In this immersive performance, McDonald activates handmade costumes and set elements through movement, music, and song, reframing our understanding of Esherick, his creative legacy, and his influences in the 1920s and 1930s. McDonald draws specifically on Esherick’s prismatic furniture, Expressionistic stage sets for the Hedgerow Theatre, interest in Anthroposophy, experience with rhythmic dance, and personal writing, transforming the artist’s notes to himself into song lyrics for a newly composed musical score. The Wood is Singing in Color was developed in collaboration with musicians Brooke Sietinsons and Miriam Goldberg, fashion designer Dana Meyer, and woodworkers Casey Chew. Additional elements were commissioned from woodworker Larissa Huff.
For over two decades, Martha McDonald has devised site-specific, performance-based interventions for museums, botanical gardens, and historic sites. She has developed works for Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Craft Victoria (Melbourne, Australia), RAIR (Recycled Artists in Residence), The Museum of American Glass at WheatonArts, The Woodlands cemetery, and The Rosenbach Museum & Library. McDonald lives and works in Philadelphia.
The Wood is Singing in Color will be performed on select dates this September and November. An accompanying installation exploring McDonald’s residency research and a costume made for the performance will be shown in WEM’s Visitor Center beginning September 14th.